WIPO: EWC President’s testimonial on the “integrity of the digital society”


Posted on September 18, 2020, 5:00 pm
6 mins

WIPO Conference on the Global Digital Content Market

This virtual WIPO conference will explore the latest developments in the creative industries sector brought about by digital technologies at worldwide level.

Date: September 16-18, 2020, online

Testimonial by Nina George, EWC President (full text version)

“I would like to start by raising my gaze a little higher to make it clear how the demands of authors for integrity are something that affects the whole of society. The conscientious vision of a digital society is a great global longing. It is the longing for a reliable counterpart, and for a space of encounter that is not marked by fear.

Comments, opinions and posts should come from a human being, not from a bot or fake account of an interest group that wants to impose extreme tendencies, and not from a person who creates a fake Tinder or YouTube profile. Longing for reliable information that is not suspected of being deep fake, or suspected to have been compiled by an AI. Longing for information flows that are not shut down by the state, controlled by monopolies or pre-sorted by their algorithms. And finally: a longing to enter into a human, social discourse and not to permanently deal with aggression on a digital level.

This coincides with the deep need for recognition: recognition of one’s own opinion, recognition of work, property and performance, and recognition of values. All of this is related in terms of regulatory policy. We have also received a lot of positive things through digital evolution, no question – I am not a digital pessimist, just realistic. Because the concept of “free” on the Internet has its price: it is the loss of data, the loss of trust, and the loss of fact-based discourse.

And here we are finally at the copyright. In copyright law, for example, there is also a copyright obligation: to factual accuracy, truth and the responsibility to be the demonstrable creator of a text. I would now like to mention three points which, since 2008 and the introduction of tablets and reading-enabled mobile phones, have reduced our total income by half on average worldwide and, overall, are detrimental to the diversity, independence and sustainability of both entertaining and textbook literature.

Firstly, we are dealing with digital monopolies which, through their dominant market share – such as Audible or Amazon – dictate conditions that are beyond good manners. Taxes and equipment levies are not paid. Amazon exposes itself to undermining in countries with fixed book prices. And by inventing flat rates and price dumping in the digital world, it has suggested that the cultural asset of books is as easy to finance as an all-inclusive buffet. We are talking here about the “self-censorship of the market”: as a result of falling remuneration in the digital world, fewer and fewer authors are able to write, except for the well-off, white privileged, and fewer and fewer publishers are able to publish niche topics or less frequently written languages.

Secondly, we live with piracy and paid piracy; it is estimated that one third of all e-books and audio books circulating worldwide come from illegal sources. No relevant legal enforcement or investigative framework has been found here for 20 years. Taking away humiliation and demotivation means loss of income, loss of investment in innovation of new voices or important textbooks, and in the case of paid piracy it also means loss of tax revenue for the countries.

Third, the increasing undermining of copyright by educational institutions. Numerous institutions, which are themselves suffering under the pressure of falling budgets, would like to compensate for this by lobbying for additional exceptions or limitations to the digital use of our work to be incorporated into national legal frameworks. This is where authors are supposed to compensate for the lack of state budgets for education and science. Here too, flat-rate licences have established themselves in an unpleasant way.

Overall, it has been shown that the digital society of today no longer perceives the performance of a cultural work, a book, when the consistency changes from physical to digital. Borrowing is the new having. We are far from the moral and ethically honest principle: every use must be compensated. If it is not, the source of knowledge, culture and the book value chain will dry up. In a digital society of overall integrity and conscientiousness, the protection of these sources would be a fundamental value. In the present one, this ethics is rarely felt.”

Download the full program and complete speaker’s list

Photo: Emmanuel Berrod. Copyright: WIPO. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 IGO License.